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On the 16th of September 2022 A federal appeals court reversed the lower court’s ruling which blocked a controversial Texas law that prohibits technology companies from moderating their content according to views.
In September 2021 Texas governor Greg Abbott signed bill HB20 into law, declaring that it would end “a dangerous movement by social media companies to silence conservative viewpoints and ideas.” In this statute, “[a] social media platform may not censor a user, a user’s expression, or a user’s ability to receive the expression of another person based on: (1) the viewpoint of the user or another person; (2) the viewpoint represented in the user’s expression or another person’s expression; or (3) a user’s geographic location in this state or any part of this state.” The law defines “censor” as to “block, ban, remove, deplatform, demonetize, de-boost, restrict, deny equal access or visibility to, or otherwise discriminate against expression.”
It is a controversial law. Texas legislation has come under widely criticised for preventing tech companies from controlling hatred speech, abuse, and false information in their respective platforms and makes them liable to permit opinions and content they might not want to associate in their own business. Additionally the law’s enforcement could cause other consequences, including making spam filters in the email system illegal, since they are employed by tech firms in order to “block” political speech.
The Texas legislature exempted conservative social media platforms Parler and Gab from the new law, limiting it to sites with 50 million or more users and also rejecting any attempt to lower this threshold.
On the 1st of December, 2021 the federal district judge from Texas had a hard time enforcing the law ruling the law “compels social media platforms to disseminate objectionable content and impermissibly restricts their editorial discretion” in accordance with the First Amendment. In May, 2022 an all-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily stayed the district court’s decision and allowed the law to be implemented while the case was still before the district court. The decision wasn’t unanimous, and did not contain the judges’ arguments. The decision was appealed to the Supreme Court, which issued the decision in May 30th, 2022. The decision did not deal with the issue in any way however, it vacated that Fifth Circuit’s May 11, 2022 order and halted the implementation of the law in the meantime of the outcome in the case before the District Court.
After the Court of Appeals has again let the law advance the law will most likely be again appealed at the Supreme Court. Furthermore, the parties who are challenging the law could first request an appearance before all judges of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Whatever the outcome, the debate regarding the Texas law isn’t over yet.
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